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Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 May 2008

In “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Robert Pape (2003) presents an analysis of his suicide terrorism data. He uses the data to draw inferences about how territorial occupation and religious extremism affect the decision of terrorist groups to use suicide tactics. We show that the data are incapable of supporting Pape's conclusions because he “samples on the dependent variable.”—The data only contain cases in which suicide terror is used. We construct bounds (Manski, 1995) on the quantities relevant to Pape's hypotheses and show exactly how little can be learned about the relevant statistical associations from the data produced by Pape's research design.

Corresponding author
Scott Ashworth is Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
Joshua D. Clinton is Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
Adam Meirowitz is Associate Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
Kristopher W. Ramsay is Assistant Professor of Politics, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544 (
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Barbara Geddes . 1990. “How the Cases You Choose Affect the Answers You Get: Selection Bias in Comparative Politics.” Political Analysis 2 (Spring): 131–50.

Gary King , and Zeng Lengche . 2001. “Logistic Regression in Rare Events Data.” Political Analysis 9 (Spring): 137–63.

Gary King , and Zeng Lengche . 2002. “Estimating Risk and Rate Levels, Ratios and Differences in Case-control Studies.” Statistics in Medicine 21 (August): 1409–27.

Robert A. Pape 2005. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
  • URL: /core/journals/american-political-science-review
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